The smartphone race has always been fickle. Leads change with alarming frequency, and consumers switch from platform to platform like anything. Despite everything that has happened in that space, BlackBerry has always managed to have a place in the market. Their latest offering, the Z3, carries the same standard as their past devices, with a sleek, beautiful design, a simple, swipe-based interface, and now, straight support for Android applications. Is it enough to keep them in the running, or is it back to the drawing board for the brand?
There’s no denying it: This phone is a thing of beauty, as BlackBerry devices have always been. The phone has some weight to it, so it doesn’t feel like some cheap plasticky toy you got at a bargain bin electronics shop. Straight lines abound, giving it a distinct geometric let’s-get-down-to-business look.
The front of the Z3 is solid glass, with a speaker grille up near the top. There are no buttons to speak of, thanks to the swipe-based UI. You have the familiar notification light off to the right of the earpiece, and a front-facing camera to the left of it. The left edge has the power, voice control and volume controls, while the right edge has the door for the SIM card and microSD card. The 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port round off the top and bottom respectively. It’s a slim .37 inch thick, though is a little on the wide side. Fortunately, the back gives good purchase on the phone that would otherwise be a little tricky to hold.
The uncluttered face of the phone really gives it an air of elegance that makes the Z3 stand out. Those who are used to capacitive buttons of their smartphones might have a bit of an adjustment period, but rest assured, there isn’t any lack of functionality with the omission of keys.
The hardware on the Z3 is strangely, a little behind the curve. It runs a Snapdragon 400 chipset, a dual-core 1.2GHz Krait 200 processor, and an Adreno 305 GPU. It has 1.5GB of RAM, and an adequate 8GB of internal storage. That spec is not out of place in today’s market, but the lack of muscle might start to show in a few months’ time.
The screen on the Z3 is a nice, roomy five inches, with a resolution of 540×960, for a pixel density of 220ppi.
As with practically all current smartphones, the Z3 has two cameras on board. The main shooter is a 5 MP snapper, which is backed up by a 1.1MP front snapper, both more than enough for snapshots, selfies.
The phone comes with a non-removable 2500 mAh battery. Given the spec, this is quite a large battery, and should give quite a bit of uptime.
User Experience: 3.5/5
The star of the BlackBerry show is the OS. I have to admit, it’s one of the more visually-striking mobile operating systems available now. It’s bold and very visually striking. Many people, however, complain about how they have difficulty navigating the UI. While these concerns are not entirely unfounded, I do believe it’s a matter of trying work the phone like an Android or iOS device. Swiping to look at notifications, return to the home screen, and switch between tasks is actually quite intuitive. Ten minutes of constant use and you should be all set.
Notifications on the lock screen are very well-handled, with all the events visible on the left. Should you want to see what a particular group of notifications is about, give it a tap, and it pops open to reveal all the individual message preview are revealed, and tapping on any one of those takes you straight to the app. One confusing bit, however, is that since there isn’t a traditional home screen, there isn’t a single screen from which you can return, and navigate from. You’ll either always be inside an app, or at the app drawer. Give it a little time, and you’ll be using the Z3 like the boss you are.
Battery life on the phone is great. It has a large battery for its size and spec, and as such, gives you almost two days, if you don’t run your data connection into the ground. Speaking of data connectivity, the Z3 has 3G connectivity, which is enough for constantly being connected.
The phone does have a 5MP camera is there, but it’s not the Z3’s strongest suit. It does okay in bright light, but once the scene gets dim, the camera delivers pictures a little on the grainy side. For quick snapshots, it should suffice, but don’t try to go out and shoot a magazine cover with it.
Value for money: 4/5
The Z3 is available for under PHP11,000. The phone looks, acts, and feels like it fetches a far higher price than that, to be honest. It performs solidly, giving you everything you need, with a UI that’s unique and very usable. If you have the need to be connected, and want to look good doing it, this is a great deal for the price.
Great battery life
Android apps have to be side-loaded
Might not be familiar to all
If you need a phone dedicated to a business line, this looks and plays the part, at a price that won’t leave you bankrupt.